Tips for Owning a Pit Bull
So you adopted a dog from MPR (or plan to adopt one) and want to do things right to ensure the best possible relationship with your dog. Here's a few tips that should help you start on a good note.
MPR recommends to never leave a Pit Bull outside unattended
Pit Bull dogs are a regular targets for thieves and people with bad intentions. Leaving a Pit Bull outside alone is like leaving a diamond ring on a restaurant table. Chances are it won’t be there when you come back...
In addition, Pit Bulls are incomparable escape artists and can get out of the best fenced yard if they set their heart to it. They are social animals and many of them won’t resist the temptation to explore the neighborhood if they realize they have been left alone. A Pit Bull running lose is not only at great danger but can be a serious liability too. If the dog gets in trouble during their escapade, (ex: cause a car accident by crossing a busy street) YOU will be held accountable.
When you are not available to keep an eye on your dog, he or she should be safe inside the house, in a large comfortable crate if home alone or in separate room if you have other pets.
MPR recommends to secure your fence if needed
Even if you don't leave your dog(s) alone outside we recommend that you "Pit Bull-proof" your yard. This means making sure all gates are secured and properly closed (many responsible Pit Bull owners don't hesitate to put a lock on their gate), and that you regularly do a walk through to identify potential problems with the fence.
If you have a low fence (5 foot and under), installing coyote rollers, or running an electric wire all around may be necessary to ensure top security. Many Pit Bulls are fence jumpers or climbers - Some will dig under and some will chew their way through.... In some cases, a Pit Bull will need to be kept on a cable outside if you have a low fence.
MPR recommends to always keep your Pit Bull on a lead when out of your fenced yard, and to never take a Pit Bull to areas where other dogs run loose
While you may think you know your dog and that you can control him or her well, you certainly don't know the dogs you may encounter in off-leash areas, much less control them. Remember that if anything bad happens, the Pit Bull will most likely be blamed, which will only add to the bad reputation of the breed. Our favorite lead: Weiss Walkie (Very secure and perfect for strong dogs that tend to pull).
MPR recommends to keep in mind Pit Bull dogs may not always get along with other dogs
Some Pit Bulls are able to live with a familiar dog of the opposite sex but many "bully" breeds and Terriers do much better as only pets. Pit Bulls often develop a certain degree of dog-aggression as they mature, especially towards dogs they are not familiar with. It's not their fault and its not "how you raise them". It's how the breed was created. Please review the Breed Info page for more information on this subject.
MPR recommends that you don't encourage your dog to become protective
A good Pit Bull will defend you if you are seriously threaten but a normal Pit Bull should always enjoy meeting new people. You can nurture this trait by giving treats to your visitors and asking them to hand them to your dog. Same if you take your dog in public. The best thing you can do to help Pit Bulls in need is to show people how friendly and fun-loving these dogs are so more people are willing to adopt one.
Remember that Pit Bulls are known to be "enthusiastic greeters". It's a trait of the breed that is very much part of their charm. You might warn your guests to be ready for a few kisses.
MPR recommends to crate your young dog when unsupervised
Many of the dogs that come into our program are crate trained. We use large and extra-large wire crates. Our favorite is Life Stage dog crate - Model 1648 Size: 48 L x 30 W x 36 H" and Model 1642 Size: 42 L x 26 W x 28 H". Please keep in mind that some Pit Bulls dogs are very strong and might need a sturdier crate.
Dogs are den animals - A crate is a safe den, provided its not used inappropriately. Wolves "crate" their youngsters when they go on a hunt by keeping them in the den. Leaving the pups free to roam at will would mean a sure death. The den is a safe place that insures the survival of the pack. By crating our dogs we emulate a natural behavior they are comfortable with. That said, dogs should not be crated more than 6-8 hours.
In addition, the crate should never be used for punishment. Its purpose is to keep the dog safe when the owner cannot properly supervise. Keeping toys and treats in the crate will help assuring the dogs enjoy their time. Eventually, your pet will consider the crate as a “den” and will go in it on its own for rest or for quiet time.
Furthermore, crating is a great way to housebreak a pet. By instinct, dogs will not eliminate in the area in which they sleep, provided they can help it. Sometimes a dog cannot control his bowel movements due to intestinal parasites, digestive issues or other circumstances. Urinary tract infections are common with dogs and will cause them to urinate more frequently. Make sure you have a veterinarian examine your dog if they are repeatedly having accidents in their crate before concluding that it is a behavior problem.)
As a responsible Pit Bull owner, you should be aware that a crate is essential to a happy household if you have Pit Bulls and other pets. You should never leave your Pit Bull out with other animals when you are not there to supervise them. It is well known that Pit Bulls can and most likely will develop a certain degree of animal aggression at some point in their life. Fights can happen with every breed, but Pit Bulls are powerful dogs that were bred to never quit. If you are not there to break up a potential fight, you could come home to a devastating situation.
Keep treats near the crate and always give one to the dog when he or she goes in. That way your dog will associate the crate with something pleasant.
Crates are used to make the relationship with your pet a happy and successful one. You can avoid the need to correct your dog if he has done nothing wrong during your absence. You can save that time for positive activities, such as play or training. You won’t have to come home to a house that has been chewed on, pooped on, and thoroughly destroyed and your dog will not end up relinquished to the back yard. Peace of mind for everyone!!
MPR recommends to follow the NO FREE LUNCH (NFL) PROGRAM
Especially when you first get the dog. The NFL will help you establish leadership and prevent behavior problems, dominance, aggression, etc.
Anything we get in excess, regardless of how much we like it, loses value over a period of time. If you really like ice cream and indulge in a bowl daily, you might look forward to that as your special treat each day. But if you ate ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all your snacks, at some point you would not consider ice cream to be very special.
A dog is much like a 2 year old child in his perception of value. Both only put values on the tangible of the moment and only if they perceive the need at that moment. If they are hungry or if the food being offered is thought of as a special treat, it has value. But again, if they have just had two or three hamburgers and are full, the juiciest hamburger has no value.
One thing that most dogs put value to is physical contact with their owners or anyone they care about. This contact is often in the form of "petting". It can also be in other forms such as leaning on, jumping on, mouthing, or any form of their body touching our body. Many dogs also value other types of attention from their people, such as eye contact and verbal interaction. But, if your dog controls these types of interactions, their value is going to be diminished.
The NO FREE LUNCH program means the dog must earn the attention it gets. Instead of diminishing the value of contact with your dog, you are going to increase its reward value. If the dog presents itself for petting, ask him to do something for you first. That something may just be to "sit". As soon as the dog does sit, you can pet him. But now it is your idea, and not his. It is helpful to also keep the petting to a brief interaction. Make sure the dog understands you are also controlling the amount of attention and duration of petting. In other words, keep the value of the petting high by doling it out in small quantities instead of flooding the dog with the petting. Give him a stroke or two and quit. If he wants more, again ask him to do something for you before you resume petting him. KEEP CONTROL!
There is a ton of information regarding NFL for dogs on-line. MPR recommends Pit Bull owners to familiarize themselves with the concept to ensure successful ownership.
If you have another dog and adopt a Pit Bull (or plan to adopt):
MPR recommends to keep the dogs separate when no one can keep an eye on them. All dogs can fight but this is sadly to task Pit Bull dogs were created for. If you are not home to intervene quickly in the event of a conflict between the dogs, it could degenerate into something serious.
MPR recommends to control triggers. Pit Bulls should never have free access to bones, food or treats. Toys and attention can also be a source of conflict. Keep in mind that certain dogs tend to push out any competition for what they perceive as limited resources - your attention, food, toys, etc.
MPR recommends to supervise roughhousing. Dog are like kids. It can start as a game but quickly escalate into a conflict. When it comes to a "fighting breed" we can't let the dogs work things out on their own. Time-out for everyone may be necessary if the dogs are getting carried away during play.
MPR recommends to be aware of redirect aggression. This type of aggression is often misunderstood by humans and may occur more frequently than you think. A dog that becomes overly excited by an outside stimuli may redirect their response to another pet. Two companion dogs restrained behind a fence and triggered by a squirrel for example, could attack each other.
If you have young children and adopt a Pit Bull (or plan to adopt)
Remember that "you" are the leader of the pack. It is YOUR responsibility to control the dog(s) around the children. Kids are often too young or too small to be taken serious as a leader in the eyes of a big powerful dog. You need to make sure the dog understands however, that YOU will not tolerate rambunctious behaviors that could hurt the children. And that goes the other way too. Do not allow the kids to be brutal with the dog. Teach the kids to treat the animals with love and respect. As the parent, YOU must control the situation. Do not expect a child to have the maturity to establish leadership over a dog, and for a dog to be a "nanny" for the kids.
Remember that dogs cant express with words when they are irritated. They can only talk "dog"; Growl, snarl and bite. The kids need to understand from the get go that dogs are NOT toys.
Don't hesitate to involve the children when you feed the dogs. They can put the food in the bowl for example. Of course, don't let the kids tease the dog with food or play in the bowl while the dog eats. Again supervision is key.
MPR recommends using SOLID leashes and collars
Pit Bulls are very strong and were bred to have a high pain tolerance level, especially in the neck area. They need solid and sturdy collars that wont break under tension. It would be terrible if you couldn't hold your dog back from a dangerous situation simply because you didn't have the proper tool.
Do NOT use plastic snap-lock collars with a Pit Bull - Two-Ply Nylon or leather buckle collars are recommended.
Note that if you have a Pit Bull and another dog in your home both of them should wear their collar at ALL time. If ever a conflict was to strike between the dogs, solid collars will facilitate breaking the fight.
The Weiss Walkie is a great tool for owners who want an easy, dog-friendly way to walk their dogs. It is very secure and the design incorporates principles of canine physiology and psychology to quickly and humanely stop pulling. It wraps around your dog’s barrel and attaches to your dog’s buckle collar. When the dog pulls, the Walkie applies slight pressure around the dog’s barrel – and dogs naturally decrease forward movement. The pressure around the chest also serves to naturally calm and relax the dog, to decrease arousal – very helpful for the dog that is easily excited.